Hey, How Did You Find That Place? Interesting Online Services For Finding Your Travel Sweet Spot

By | May 27, 2012 at 6:43 pm | No comments | Latest News, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

We think this is just too cool. QG WD writers and contributor’s consider themselves pretty in the know, but when we saw the story in the NY Times Travel section (thanks to writer Jennifer Conlin for the piece) on unique destination and hotel/home stay options out there, we just had to share here. The idea that for what it basically can cost to bunk in a marginal Holiday Inn Express with tepid coffee, soggy danish and plastic wrapped cutlery, you worldly curvy girl can be in a remote ranch in Montana, a suite atop a cafe in Paris and a hut equipped with your own surf board and sand bucket in Bora Bora! Check out the bit here, we think you’ll like the idea…

EVERY March my most organized friends start reserving waterfront rooms, urban oases or country cabins for their perfect summer getaway, while I procrastinate, overwhelmed by the options. Recently, I logged onto VRBO.com (Vacation Rental by Owner), only to find my head spinning at the length of its roster — 180,000 properties worldwide. Scrolling through Hotels.com (145,000 hotels in more than 60 countries) and Airbnb.com (over 100,000 short-term rental places in 192 countries), I almost gave up.

Then I stumbled upon DesignTripper.com, a site that features 200 or so beautifully photographed small hotels, inns and houses — a slim roster of properties, which appeared to be so breathtakingly designed that the destination seemed secondary.

DesignTripper is one of several curated Web sites that have recently sprung up, offering an alternative to those endless lists on mainstream sites.

“On the big booking Web sites you find all the corporate hotels, but if you want to find the cabin, cottage, B&B or family-owned hotel, it is really hard,” said Meghan McEwen, the founder of Designtripper.com. “Not everyone enjoys the big hunt for that little gem,” said Krista Garcia, an analyst at the research firm eMarketer, who notes that people are starting to prefer sites “where the experts are trusted tastemakers who save the consumer time.”

What follows are six sites offering a tailored portfolio of lodgings from quirky to sleek. Be forewarned: the sites vary greatly in terms of price and geographical range, and offer different degrees of user-friendliness. Some don’t even include prices. But if you, like me, are put off by exhaustive listings, here’s another way to while away the afternoon.

Boutique-Homes.com

Billing itself as “temporary housing for chic nomads,” this Web site offers a collection of unusual lodgings. You can book not only a beautifully restored vintage trailer with polished wood interiors in Marfa, Tex., for $110 to $130 a night, but also a detached hotel room with a glass wall in the mountains of Norway from 1,250 kroners per night, or $210, at 6 kroners to the dollar.

BEST FOR The traveler who likes offbeat places and properties, like a convent in Corsica, complete with a Baroque chapel (price is negotiable). The site is also good for price-conscious travelers — a “Cheap and Chic” section includes one of the oldest homes in Kyoto for $144 a night.

EASE OF USE With lively property descriptions, photos, practical information, a blog and reviews by previous visitors, there is little you won’t know about the property before you book, which must be done by filling out an online inquiry form. Searching is enjoyable too, as you can choose by style (modern, rustic, urban, etc.), location type (beach, country, desert, etc.) and continent. But not all the listings have what you need. Cinco Camp, a set of cabins in Texas, has great photos but no information. Further browsing reveals that it is “currently not available,” which makes you wonder why it is on the site at all.

GEOGRAPHIC RANGE 166 rentals and 35 hotels in 33 countries.

DesignHotels.com

Begun in 1993 as a marketing company for 10 contemporary hotels, Design Hotels, based in Germany, now lists scores of artfully designed hotels. The company recently began a new experiment: pop-up hotels. Through October, the pop-up is a beach club, renovated by Design Hotels, in Mykonos; rooms start at 120 euros, or $153, at $1.26 to the euro.

BEST FOR The five-star traveler who wants style above all else and appreciates a Web site that mirrors that sensibility.

EASE OF USE A cinch. Plug in your destination and dates and a list of hotels comes up with prices and a “book now” link. Though many properties are well-known boutique hotels, the accompanying videos, produced with mood music and shimmering photographs, are alluring. But why aren’t there customer reviews?

GEOGRAPHIC RANGE 220 hotels in 41 countries.

DesignTripper.com

Lush photographs and blog-like entries explore the intersection of travel and design at “indie” hotels, B&Bs and inns. Properties include Podere Palazzo, a five-bedroom Tuscan farmhouse with an infinity pool, from $4,450 a week and Casa Ninamu, a thatched jungle/beach home in Mexico starting at $400 a night.

EASE OF USE The images are captivating and the commentary is thoughtful, but booking, which is not done through the site, is not made easy, with links to the properties’ Web sites often buried within the text. Practical details, like child-friendliness, are often lacking, and prices aren’t always included, which means you might get sticker shock when you log onto the actual property site.

GEOGRAPHIC RANGE 200 properties in 39 countries, from the United States to Uganda.

MrandMrsSmith.com

Though older (it was introduced in 2005), MrandMrsSmith.com continues to attract selective users. The site’s “review team” visits the properties; those visits are followed by an anonymous stay by friends and family who report back on the listed boutique hotels, luxury spas, guesthouses and country inns, which include an 18th-century stone house with a high-tech design in Wales (starting at £480 for a long weekend, or $780, at $1.55 to the pound), and a four-bedroom beach home in Australia for $750 Australian dollars a night, about the same in U.S. dollars.

BEST FOR Travelers who like “insiderly” reviews, and membership perks (the “BlackSmith” free membership gets you Champagne, late check-in and epicurean picnic hampers, while the “SilverSmith,” at $60 a year, also includes 50 percent off selected hotels the month they are introduced on the site).

EASE OF USE Plugging in your destination and dates quickly pulls up a list of prices and availability at various properties. But reviews by the site’s “anonymous visitors” seem to contain no criticisms, so you might feel as if the place is too good to be true. Also, users can’t book houses online, but must call (800) 464-2040 and speak to a member of the site’s “travel team.”

GEOGRAPHIC RANGE 950 properties in 65 countries, from the Maldives to Mexico.

UniqueHomeStays.com

Boutique B&Bs and luxury rentals, primarily in Europe, are the focus on this site. There are 14 B&B properties available in Britain alone, one a manor home in the Cotswolds with a croquet lawn and swimming pool that costs £50 per night for a double.

BEST FOR Travelers who prefer the intimacy of staying in someone else’s house, whether it be with the hosts on site, serving you breakfast, or renting a fully furnished house.

EASE OF USE Photo galleries, pricing, customer testimonies and information on activities are all helpful, but while the site allows online booking, sometimes you must do a provisional booking and wait for confirmation.

GEOGRAPHIC RANGE 140 homes in 14, mostly European, countries.

WelcomeBeyond.com

Founded by two globe-trotting Berlin-based brothers, this site offers lodgings with personality: a six-bedroom, cliffside villa in Phuket, Thailand, goes for 1,338 euros per night (chef included), and a cozy forest hut in Sweden with no electricity costs 44 euros.

BEST FOR The adventurous traveler who can appreciate the unusual — bordering on eccentric — collection of properties, which include castles, yurts and tree houses.

EASE OF USE The home page gives the choice of trolling by “location or interest.” It’s fun to search by interest, with categories like “unusual destinations” or “food and wine.” Slide shows, maps and details on amenities and activities are all useful. Properties are booked by contacting the manager of each place via the site — not great for impatient clients who want the immediate gratification of booking online.

GEOGRAPHIC RANGE Roughly 100 properties in nearly 30 countries, from South Africa to Morocco.

Go to NYTIMES.com for the original story in the Sunday online edition.

About the Author

Lisa Pool Content Manager

About Our Content Manager; Lisa Pool is the creative consultant for QG and acts as the lead contributing writer and Content Manager for the Queen Grace Weekly Dish. Lisa owns the branding agency, cc101 Productions. As someone who thrives on current trends and events, Lisa and her guest bloggers bring to the QG WD contemporary posts on topics important to our QG community. Follow Lisa on Facebook at; Creative Consulting cc101 and on Twitter @cc101production - Lisa also writes for MindBodyGreen, Divine Caroline, Conscious Divas, The Examiner and Redbook Magazine. About our blog; Marina Zelner created the Queen Grace brand as a high-fashion company that designs exclusively for the contemporary full-figured woman. Every one of our distinct collections celebrates her freedom, confidence and inner beauty. The QG Weekly Dish blog is an extension of this vision. The QGWD will share posts by our staff, contributing writers, guest bloggers and popular industry feeds from time to time. Follow us on Facebook at; Queen Grace Collection and on Twitter @QGCollection

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